NEAR WEST SIDE — Want to sample the best craft beers from around Chicago without leaving your seat? The Near West Side's newest option for beer connoisseurs has the answer.
Great Central Brewing Company, 221 N. Wood St. on the Near West Side, will unveil its tasting room with a grand opening from 2-9 p.m. Friday and a soft opening starting Wednesday.
The 200-seat tasting room will allow customers to sample craft beers from 24 taps featuring brews from Begyle, Maplewood, Kinslahger and Three Floyds offshoot WarPigs, plus the brewery's own German-style house offerings.
Great Central opened last year as the city's first craft-dedicated contract brewery, which means it helps fledgling breweries expand production, offload seasonal production and fill the gap between brewery scale-ups.
The pints sold at the taproom are $6 and include four house brews that include a crisp helles lager, a honey caramel bock, a classic pilsner and a fruity hefeweizen. The house beer comes in half pints for $4, canned and draft pints and to-go four-packs for $10.99.
Offerings from its list of clients include almost entirely Chicago area beers, including four from the city's Begyle: a blonde ale, Free Bird American pale ale, Crash Landed American pale wheat ale and the Hophazardly American IPA.
Maplewood, also based in Chicago, will also have four options, including a peaches 'n' spice IPA known as Crushinator, the Pulaski Pils and the award-winning Charlatan APA.
There will also be a hoppy lager from WarPigs, a new collaboration between Three Floyds and Danish brewer Mikkel Borg Bjergso, a couple brews from Oak Park-based Kinslahger and a juicy IPA from Funk Brewing in Pennsylvania.
"It's like multiple brewery tours in one, and without all the driving," co-founder Conor McFerran said. "It's a relaxed place to belly up, sample a wide range of offerings and compare styles one to one to increase your beer IQ."
For the grand opening Friday, Great Central will have guest appearances and a contest to guess how much stainless steel it takes to run a brewery. The Big Star Taco Truck will be on hand from 4-6 p.m. as well.
Great Central got its name from the pages of Chicago history books; in the late 1800s, the city was known as the Great Central Market due to its "function as a major rail nexus and the exchange of goods, people and, most importantly, ideas that happened here," according to Great Central's menu. "Grand Central is New York; Great Central is Chicago. We are but honest prairie folk and have no delusions of grandeur."
The brewery makes batches as small as 100 barrels for licensed brewers (which is 1,400 cases or 33,600 cans) while also brewing small batches of its own recipes "to showcase our talents and keep our team sharp."
The tasting room will be open from 2-8 p.m. Wednesdays, 2-9 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, noon-9 p.m. Saturdays and noon-8 p.m. Sundays.
Check out the opening week menu below: